Bradford can smell Wembley and Johnstone's Paint Trophy glory.
Fortune has already favoured Bradford in their quest to lift the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. After getting a bye in the first round, their second-round game with Barnsley was postponed last week due to a waterlogged pitch following a deluge in the run up to kick-off.
Now the Bantams reconvene for the rearranged clash in much better shape with James Meredith, Rory McArdle, Reece Burke and Lee Evans all back from international duty and available for selection, while the rest of the squad are well-rested after Saturday’s game with Blackpool was postponed due to those call-ups.
There’s no such luck for visitors, though. Simeon Jackson, Dan Crowley and Conor Wilkinson all remain at large with their respective national teams and they will also be minus striker Michael Smith because his loan deal from Swindon hadn’t been registered in early September when the draw was made.
All of which leaves Lee Johnson with very limited options to change a starting 11 that was beaten at home by bottom-of-the-table Crewe on Saturday. Unlike Bradford, the Tykes had to fulfil their fixture because two of their absentees were youth loans. They did dominate against the Railwaymen but missed several chances before Lauri Dalla Valle’s late sucker punch.
Johnson was quick to blame the officials afterwards for a couple of offside decisions that went against his team but, in reality, the Tykes were once again guilty of over-playing in the middle third and failing to deliver quality balls into the box before the Railwaymen were able to get themselves set.
It’s a shortcoming of Barnsley’s 4-5-1 system Parkinson is only too aware of and he will be happy for the Reds to have sustained spells of possession here, so long as his team dominate in both penalty boxes. Not only is that a facet in which the Bantams specialise, but their greater depth should enable them to mix it up, if necessary, and try alternative methods later on.
So the tie would appear to be Bradford’s for the taking. The big question is: how much do they really care about this competition? Ordinarily, at this early stage, the answer would be ‘no more than anyone else’ but Phil Parkinson has never been one to turn his nose up at knockout glory and a chance of glory just got that little bit closer following Saturday’s area quarter-final draw.
Not only do the Bantams have home advantage here but they already know another home tie awaits against lowly League Two York should they progress. Suddenly, without kicking a ball, the Bantams can see themselves just two steps away from Wembley. The path couldn’t be more enticing and it’s hard to look beyond the 5/4 available on the home side keeping to their side of the bargain.
For more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system, follow this link.